(‘Let them eat cake,’ said Queen Marie Antoinette (allegedly) when she learned that her peasants had no bread. For the last 6 months my wife has also been uttering the same thing whenever she learns that we are hungry).
“Fried rice!!!” My daughter whispered.
“No, Pulao!” I whispered back.
“It is halwa, acha!”
“No, it is pudding, mole!”
“Milkshake, I think!”
“It can also be curd rice, dear.”
“My latest cake. Vanilla lava cake, Belgian style,” my wife put an end to the hot debate raging on between me and my daughter. Cake! So this hot halwa-like substance on table is cake?
Our mouths swung open in utter shock, giving Divya a leeway to tuck in handfuls of her new ‘cake’ into our mouths. “EAT.”
“Volcanic lava?” I asked through the gooey thing stuffed in my mouth; it was hardly audible.
“No. Vanilla lava,” she smiled, and stuffed more into my open mouth, plastering it without a hole.
Could be closely related, I could tell it from the smell.
“How is it?”
“Great!” we said in unison.
“But you haven’t yet tasted it.”
We began munching, with our eyes bulging out every time the grinders closed in. She stood very near, and the toilet was far away. So we munched and munched and munched, until tears began to roll down our cheeks.
“How is it?”
Divya is the reincarnation of King Bruce, who had taken refuge in her previous birth in a cave after she lost out in a battle. She was the one who learned from that son-of-the-bitch spider that one must be persistent until one wins the battle.
So if we told her that the cake was not up to the mark, she would repeat the same cake seven more times to make us buy the cake.
Few would then be alive at my home to see her final victory.
“Yeah, this is splendid dear,” I said and lobbed the ball towards Ammu, “What do you say, mole?” I asked, squeaking like a mouse.
“It is excellent, amme,” she replied licking her lips, looking away, still munching, tears rolling down from her eyes. She will survive any terrain, any situation I knew.
“Oh! I am so happy that you love my cakes. Don’t be impatient. I’ll bring you a whole plateful of it!”
We smiled through our tears.
To tell you the truth, my wife is an excellent cook. Her chicken dishes are famous among my friends. Biriyanis compete with Thalassery ones in taste. Beef fry is a gold medalist. The juices she makes can straight away go for a catwalk.
True, every cake that she makes begins its journey earnestly, but sadly gets off before it reaches the destination. A few that go beyond would turn out so black at the other end that she repeatedly names them ‘dark chocolate’.
My cousins have long stopped dropping in.
Aunts come, defending themselves by declaring that they are on a ‘vratha,’ and it is sacrilege to touch anything that has egg in it. “But this is eggless cake, aunty!!!” once my wife screamed so loud that her victim fainted, and was taken home in that state. Uncles brandish ECGs, X-rays and doctor’s certificates before her which restrict them from touching fatty food, especially cakes, whenever they come to my home. “I’d love to mole. But cholesterol,” they sang the same number.
When my cousin, Arya Sanjeev decided to try my wife’s cakes last month, out of compassion, Ammu turned up the volume of television. But why!!! “The neighbours would think that we are killing her,” she confided to me in whispers.
We noticed that cakes have upset the whole ecosystem at our home.
For the last six months since she developed this craze of making cakes, we haven’t seen a single cat near our home. All vanished without leaving a whisker or a note.
My mother once wondered aloud what was happening to the traps (poison inside cakes) she regularly set before the rat holes.
Most of the time, she finds the cakes intact, the poison gone.
“I don’t understand!” she shook her head. Wait amma, wait. You will soon understand why. “Aunty…” my amma turned around only to be confronted by a plate of cakes hovering before her eyes, with my wife smiling behind it. “Aunty, I have made a special birthday cake for you. Please taste it.”
Poor woman, she had warned me a hundred times, not to let my wife know the exact date. But somehow the news about her birthday slipped out.
You can’t blame me for not trying. I have brought cakes from big bakeries in Trivandrum to put her cakes in perspective before her, but they all boomeranged on me. “Hmm… Manu chetta, they have overused butter in it. I will show you how to make a better cake after this style.”
We hate New Year and Christmas when all those women’s magazines would be stuffed with recipes, waking up the cake-maker in Divya. She was all fury during the last vacation. Holding three or four magazines at a time in the kitchen she was churning out more samples than we could hold in our mouth.
“What do you say about this orange cake, dear?”
“Wait, Divya. Pineapple cake is still in my mouth.”
“Swallow it quick, chetta. Vanilla cake is also ready.”
I took my family to Kuttikkanam for a change; a family which consists of my wife, daughter, me and two big baskets of homemade cake. For the first time in her life, Ammu decided not to pester us for snacks. She knew what would come instead. “Feeling hungry, dear?” Divya asked occasionally while I drove. My daughter shook her head so violently that I had to hold my steering really hard to keep the car from swerving off the road.
Divya distributed cakes to her relatives and friends all along our way to Kuttikkanam. There were old women, patients, children, babies… Hmm… I made it a point not to return through the same path of catastrophe when we had to finally head back home after two days.
Ammu’s birthday comes on March. Her mother has already stocked enough materials to run a month-long cake festival to make her happy.
There are times when only a father can understand a daughter. I put my arms on her shoulder. “Cheer up dear. Your father is with you.” She raised her head and looked into my eyes with hope. “Yeah, I will be with you to share your cup of woes.” She smiled. “But definitely not your cakes,” I said and walked away determinedly (Why should I! She was not anywhere around me on my birthday. Hmph!)